quarta-feira, 20 de fevereiro de 2008

I don’t have ideas to make films, I just follow the movement.

V'-Interview: Pedro Costa - The film is rolling like the earth is rolling.

The VIENNALE was dedicating a Special Program to the Portuguese filmmaker Pedro Costa and was showing the unique development of one of the great contemporary European essay filmmakers. Pedro Costa is attending the VIENNALE; we met him for a conversation on his access to film and his perception of the world.

VIENNALE: When you have the idea for a film and thinking about it has reached a certain level that makes realization possible, how do you approach writing your scripts?

PEDRO COSTA: I don’t write scripts in a usual way. Sometimes I have to write 10-20 pages to get some money for the film, because no producer, no TV-station would be convinced without having a kind of synopsis or scenario.
My method is to spend a lot of time with a whole ensemble of things: with people, places, problems, and everything is real, we are not talking about the film or actors. And then I chose one direction or another direction, in which to go is more or less the beginning of the shooting of the film. This is done in a long, long period of time. It takes a long time to just be there, sitting, talking, drinking, and the second step then is to say, ok, I am going to follow this girl or that situation and then staying or not staying in this track. For instance, for my film “In Vanda’s Room”, I decided to follow that girl, Vanda, and I decided to work with her, in her room. And in her room, where I was filming, I then saw that people passing by which made me decide to go out and see a little bit more of what was going on outside of the room. Then I have to put the material together. The whole thing is written in the editing room more than on paper, so in a sense it is writing, but in another language. And then I hope that the construction is solid, so solid that it can be poetic and narrative, like prose and maybe it can give the people a secret.

VIENNALE: Filming and editing always means manipulating too. How do you see the connection between film and the possibility to picture reality?

PEDRO COSTA: Of course, but I don’t want to think about it too much. Manipulation of reality is a big theme. One can have wonderful arguments and ideas on that but you are going to block yourself with these thoughts. It should work on another level: you believe in something and then you do it. If you don’t believe in something then leave it. That’s why I think that 90% of all the films nowadays should not be done. I don’ see the trust-contract. When I see a film today I see contracts with the actor, the producing company, even with the audience sometimes. It’s all about money. Some directors make the same thing over and over again, and when you go to a new movie, you already know what you’ll get. This whole thing is more manipulating than anything else.

VIENNALE: In the film “In Vanda’s Room”, you visit Vanda Duarte and film her in her room over a certain period of time every day. What was this whole situation of daily filming someone taking drugs and ruining herself like for you and for Vanda?

PEDRO COSTA: The people I film are also my friends. I do not only work with them, we are together a lot, we eat, drink and so on. Of course I worry, I make suggestions and so on but like she says in the film, it is her choice, people make these choices in life. I mean I can not go beyond. Vanda says she was forced to do this. People are forced to be pour, are forced to be depressed, are forced to be melancholic, angry and so on. It is outside. You wake up and you see dead rats, it smells bad, you have no money and immediately you are angry or sad or down. It is a very complex situation. I had this idea to ask her if I could do this work with her all the time. And it was heavy for her, because we were very close, the distance is very important. There was this trust thing between us, she said I trust you, I can do all these things, I can show myself in every situation, I am not afraid of that and I trust you that it will be more than just a film about drugs. And if you look around, most people on this planet live in very unpleasant situations, everywhere, in Japan, Africa, Asia, South America, it is a state of physical and mental destruction for me. Straub says something very beautiful. He says when you make a film the first thing you have to put in your head is that a river hundred years ago was a place you could swim in, today this is not possible anymore. That brings you in a certain mood, a state of tension that perhaps will focus you on what really is important. And with Vanda it is the same. We all want the same thing, it is very simple, we want to be happy. And Vanda is very proud now that she made this film. She stopped taking drugs and she has a baby.

VIENNALE: Was the film a reason for her to change?

PEDRO COSTA: No, I don’t know. Perhaps, but I don’t want this film to be more than it is. If it helps something, it’s ok. I would like to believe that film and music are very useful, but I don’ know. In the back of my mind I have this idea, because it was useful for me. We have a very faded idea of what life is. We are in an absolutely stupid process of degradation and destruction.

VIENNALE: Your films deal a lot with possibilities and impossibilities of communication. There is an interesting allegory on communication by Arthur Schopenhauer: It is about porcupines that come together very closely on cold winter days to warm up, but as soon as they are together, they hurt each other with their stings. So they part again, but then they also have the need to come together again. It’s like this whole mess of human communication…

PEDRO COSTA: I am a firm believer that it’s the things we do together that affect us individually. It’s the way the things are organized that finally mess up our heads. Some ancient forms of organisation worked better I think. Everything is going in fragments and small pieces. Making a film for a young person seems to be much more difficult than when I started 12 or 13 years ago. A young man with a camera today is even more lost, and I’m not only talking about the money you need to make something. It’s how you can concentrate, communicate, how you can assemble something in your mind, how you can be focused, because everything is broken. We function in segments.

VIENNALE: Do you think that life is getting faster and faster these days?

PEDRO COSTA: There is an impression of things, I don’t know if it’s the reality. One of the things I like about the work with Vanda in this film, is that it’s a very slow thing, nothing moves. For me it’s still very quick. If you look closely, you can see the walls move. Sometimes the colours change, light changes and that’s the speed of the sun because I don’t use artificial light. You see the speed of the planet, the universe, the sun turning. My friend Jacques Rivette says, when you shoot a film you’re going along with the planet. The film is rolling like the earth is rolling. You should be in the same speed. With some filmmakers I like, you have that impression that they are in the same speed. A film like Vanda, which is a very long film, 3 hours, I felt it should be 3 hours because if it was only 10 minutes or half an hour people wouldn’t see it the way I wanted them to see it. Some things are very slow today. You go very fast in a plane or a train but you go very slowly in your head. I think people used to be faster in a way that they went with the world, with the movement. Today, it’s fake movements, it’s artificial things, like drugs. You want to be in a state of going very slow or very fast but not your natural thing. You want to forget your situation, you don’t want to talk to a person, to the world. So you put yourself in very transformed states. For me, it’s not Vanda who is drugged, it’s the world. Sometimes I go to the cinema and I really don’t understand what’s happening on the screen. When the camera moves around and goes very fast, I don’t see anything. Probably it’s to give an impression of the speed of life today but I think you should do this in another way.

VIENNALE: What is your next project going to be like?

PEDRO COSTA: For my next film, I’m just finishing the editing now and mixing the sound. As I said I don’t have ideas to make films, I just follow the movement. So I followed this community I’m with, Vanda and her family and another family; all these people in the neighbourhood. Since they had no houses, they moved to a social complex and I went along with them. I started working with a man and he told me a lot of interesting things about his life and from there we went to a situation with his family and now we have this monster of 4 hours. It will be called “Colossal Youth”.

VIENNALE: Thanks for the interview.

(Interview: Jürgen Berlakovich)